After three weeks away, The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet is back and ready to stir up some trouble! I’m excited and honored to share with you this road we’re about to embark on. We’ll be learning and sharing with you our back to basics sustainable living journey for 2013… in a Sweet & Savory Gourmet style of course.
In April 2011 I started The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet (TSSSG) blog. It was a personal goals list, emphasizing family, food, humanities, and community. The blog had no clear direction other than having a need to fill my idle time as ‘work-at-home’ mother. Going from full time cubical life to full time mommy life, my morals and values changed. I realized my potential to have a voice and make a difference using my voice. As I worked through my list, the strength and passion for my family, community, the environment, our local movements, and food were growing with leaps and bounds. With my husband’s support I used writing, photography, and the blog as a vehicle to extend my voice. I wasn’t expecting the growth and attention that the blog has received. I also had no idea the direction I was taking with the blog. Was it about family, food, survival in a rapid changing environment, or learning about communities?
As the blog progressed and I chipped away at the list, the focus on the local organic food movement began to take a grip of my family’s direction. I was participating in events and activities that I wanted to share. That’s when starting January 1st 2012 I took on a 365 project for the blog. 365, being the calendar days in one year; I would document daily via photo and written word the local organic community food events my family & I were participating in. Working through the 365 project I noticed significant changes happening to my family. Our food and product consumption habits were changing, and thoughts on our communities, education, and political environments were changing. The 365 project became my own personal journal working through these changes. The blog’s community of readers was growing. I started to understand the importance of the blog and how it helped me to share information. Our family was experiencing significant sustainable changes. Changes for many in today’s climate are looking to make but not sure where to begin. If my everyday family can make this change it is possible for others to make a change too…and so I shared.
We’re now at a crossroads if you will. 2012 is coming to a close. I’ve been a ‘work-at-home’ mom, away from cubical life for two years now. The blog has been up and running for a year and a half and has gained a vast array of readers globally. A desire to turn this project into something more and my family’s personal survival needs are in conflict. These past several months my family’s main focus has been maintaining financial order. Our morals and values are being challenged. We’ve been taking on too much with too little time and interference seems to be throwing me off course more than I’d like to admit. Through this blog, my writing and photography, I’ve found a voice and have been able to focus my passions in life. Lately I’ve found myself questioning my voice and passions, rethinking my family’s direction.
I’ve left the door wide open for criticism because I share my voice on a public level. The criticism has me struggling with thoughts of shutting everything down; giving up on the past year and a half of work. It is clear we can no longer live without the second income that we’ve been living without. Does that mean we must give up everything we’ve worked hard to change over the past couple years? Two weeks ago, I stepped away from the blog to do some soul searching of what I’m trying to achieve.
During a recent conversation with a friend, I had an ‘ah-ha’ moment. Others may have said this to me recently but it was her words that made it all make sense. I talked to her about the struggles we’re experiencing as a family, my good intentions for The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet project and that I’ve got to get back to reality. She interrupted me to say, “Whose reality?” She was right. Most of what we’ve experienced over the past couple years has been against the grain of what we’ve always known and done. We’ve been quite vocal of the sustainable life changes we’ve made and we’ve been met with equally vocal opposition. We’ve been called crazy, odd, hippies, unrealistic, and ignorant. So why now of all times do I let the critical commentaries get to me? She also said, “What you share will not be for everyone, but it will be for someone. You’re giving people options. You’re saying,’ here is the information you’ve been seeking, now take it and do with it as you will.” The hubs also says to me, “you should be proud you have a mind of your own. That you are doing something to change what’s wrong in our world!”
Over two years ago I made one of the hardest decisions, to leave my career, and stay home to raise our son. There was a lot of soul searching for me then too. Talks with the hubs on the expense of daycare, the rising cost of living, and a stressful job weighed heavy on our minds. My typical workday, chained to my phone & laptop would be more than 15 hours a day. I enjoyed my career. It’s a great feeling to tell someone they’re hired! But the behind the scene is draining. I was stressed. I had gained over 100 pounds from both work and a difficult pregnancy. The husband and I both agreed there had to be a better way of life for us and for our newborn son. I came to an agreement with the powers that be and that was that. I was officially a work-at-home mom.
In a whirlwind, we had our son, I was released from my job, we moved over an hour away from my family and friends to settle in a small rural community and start our new lives. During this time I’ve taken a microscope and fine tooth comb to our lives and our spending habits. The ‘Sustainable’ in my title references the changes we’ve been making as a family. There are several reasons why we wanted to change our lifestyle, but the key reasons were a want to be less dependent and the lifestyle of the past is no longer a financial option. We’ve cut back everything extra we could live without or change. Our staying afloat as a single income family, making sustainable changes, boils down to the cost of gas, electricity, water, and food; the basics.
I recently read a comic where one person asks the other what they do. One replies, “I’m a cashier” and the other replies “not what you do for a job… what do you do?” How can I use TSSSG to make this world better for my son and the future of others? This idea became more important than any position I’ve ever had or title I’ve held. The hubs recently said, “I’d rather make less money but be happy living…” For years I devoted myself to the organizations I worked for. I gave every bit of my being… so much so that there was almost nothing left. In the end despite my devotion, hard work, and time, I was expendable and the thought of loyalty went out the door.
As I talk things out with my husband, I realize that our sacrifices to have me leave the cubical life have been well worth the efforts. The decision to leave my career and stay home to raise our son has given him a positive start in life and has provided me opportunities I wouldn’t have initiated if I was still living the life of before. I’m not saying it’s not possible to juggle everything and in no way do I judge if it’s the path one takes. Some don’t have options when it comes to childcare and working. For me, at my state of mind at the time, none of this would have been possible if we hadn’t made the move. The color has come back to my skin. I’ve regained my healthful mind & attitude, loosing 100+ pounds since having my son. I’ve become active in my community, and have initiated family goals we’ve been discussing for a long time.
Our family direction has been faced with awkward opposition, which again is why I’m here questioning my next steps and our future goals. What are we trying to achieve as a family for our future and how does The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet fit into it all? When talking it out with the hubs, I kept asking… “Why am I doing this? Is what I’m doing making a difference or an impact? Is what we have to offer worth sharing? How is this going to help our family?”
Here we are over a year later and the support for The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet has been tremendous and the connections have been amazing! With the financial challenges, the new connections, how far we’ve come in making sustainable adjustments, and the opposition of it all… where do we go with The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet? I don’t want to give up everything we’ve worked hard to change but I also don’t want my family to fail.
A concern that’s been guiding our decisions in this situation is not wanting to rush things for our son, who is not yet three. I have no issues juggling a second income job, pursuing TSSSG goals, tending to my family, and attacking that list of mine. I am more than aware of the hard work and long hours I’ll have to put in. I am also aware of the benefits my son will have by being in a pre-school that is line with our ideals. The challenge is wanting him to ease into the changes verses being forced. I’ve been acting as his pre-school teacher doing activities that he’d be experiencing in a pre-school environment. I’ve also been immersed into our community so he has full exposure to children his own age, adults, and other social elements on a daily basis that are key for a growing child. He knows his ABCs front to back and in between, he can count to 20, knows his basic colors and shapes, speaks in full sentences, uses large emotional words in the correct context, helps mama sweep the kitchen and pull weeds, he makes a mean pancake, is on his way to riding a bike without training wheels, can kick and throw a ball with the best of them, and over all is just a fun happy little boy. I don’t want to hinder or ruin any of what he’s gained by forcing him into a situation because of the challenges we’re facing as a family.
With all that said, what are we going to do now? Over the past couple weeks I’ve received positive feedback from those who matter most. It is clear that I can’t stop. The movement needs a voice of every kind and color. As my friend stated, what you have is not for everyone but it’s for someone. Keeping my family’s survival in mind… I’m looking for work to supplement our income. A job search in today’s market is not easy by any means and typically can be a full time job in itself. I’m two years gone from the workplace. My decision to stay home and raise my child is not highly regarded amongst most employers. I am not immediately looked at for hiring despite glowing recommendations in my field of operation (HR, Recruiting, EA) and top notch work history; but I will not despair. I look everyday and do what I can to improve my chances of gaining some financial security for my family. We’re also looking into pre-school options for my kiddo. This has been challenging because we have limited pre-school options in our small community. Despite all the challenges… we’re going to keep the dream alive for our family & the goals that make up The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet.
With a clear direction in mind I’ve chosen to turn The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet into a Sustainable Living site. There will still be a place for my LIST; I’m still a mom testing the recipes of life…living sweet, savory, & sustainable… but today, the focus is clear… Local… Organic… Seasonal… Sustainable. The focus of my content will be my stories of our family as we work through making changes into a fully sustainable lifestyle. There will be an emphasis will be on food, basic homesteading, urban homesteading, family, crafting, natural & holistic wellness, education, community, and local businesses. There will be video information segments on Canning, Preservation, Fermentation, Pickling, Cheese Making, Bread Making, Fat Rendering, Soap & Candle Making, Natural Remedies, Composting, Pasta Making, Cooking & Baking 101s, Organic Gardening, How to Raise Small Livestock, and Raising Bees; to name a few ideas. As momentum grows I hope to turn the video segments into hands on classes for my local community. Thanks to a growing movement and the official signature of our governor, come 2013 I will be able to sell my homemade seasonal goods. I plan on attending our local farmers markets and sell directly from my website. Some products will include seasonal jams, jellies, sweet & savory sauces, chutneys, dressings, and baked goods. I will continue sharing with you photo diaries of local organic sustainable farms, sustainable restaurants, and farmers markets, as well as recipe blogs. I eventually want to partner with other local producers to start community events or festivals focusing on the local bounty, and possibly a CSA and community co-op could be down the line with ample support. The site will be filled with links, resources, and tools related to sustainable living available to our readers. I’m ready to dig in, do the work, and share it with my community.
My first goal in this project is to feed my family. We want to learn how to live a self-sufficient lifestyle. We want to be less dependent on large unstable systems and to teach our children the importance of caring for the land and its inhabitants. Through these trials I will share with my readers and the community, which transitions into my next goal of this project. I want to educate the community and the youth in sustainable self-sufficient life practices. I want to extend our teaching beyond our family and share it with the community, driving home the importance of caring for the land and its inhabitants. Lastly, we want to help feed and build a stronger community. We want to partner with our peers and help families and local operations thrive for a healthier, brighter, greener future.
Our family is at a crossroad; choosing to take the road less traveled… and through The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet we will share our journey.
I want to give a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has provided support to date. To the growing community of readers, thank you. Besides my family, it is because of you, the reader, that I do this.
This is the first of many posts to come from the new website, The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet. I’d like to refer to this post as Open for Business During Construction. I will be actively posting through this site but I’ll be modifying the site as well. You’ll see small changes as the site progresses. More comprehensive categories, easier navigation, lots of links, and lots of photos! I will seek honest feedback from you, the reader on the functionality and information. To conclude, this post was intended to be a catch up on the 365 Project for TSSSG but turned into something more personal. I will continue with the weekly 365 summaries to close out 2012 and who knows… I may see a 365 in 2013’s future! Below you will find photo commentary of the past couple months, with no reason to the order other than they start where I left off (day 254 onward to today). It’s been a long read, but hopefully it was an identifiable and entertaining read. I look forward to sharing with you the future of The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet for 2013!
Thank you again for your support and following The Sustainable Sweet & Savory Gourmet!
LOCAL ~ ORGANIC ~ SEASONAL ~ SUSTAINABLE